WCSU Math Department

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Who Wants to be a Mathematician
Event Information:
April 5, 2016
Registration starts at 8:30 am in White Hall
181 White Street, Danbury,  Connecticut
Please register for tickets on Eventbrite:

Math Department home

Local Planning Committee:

For more info, please contact:

Dr Stavros Christofi,
(203) 837-9351,

or any of the other members of the Planning Committee: 

Dr David Burns,
(203) 837-9346;

Dr Becky Hall,

Dr Senan Hayes,

Dr Amanda Lubell,

Dr Paula Maida,

Helen Bechard, bechardh@wcsu.edu,(203)837-8800.

Examples of Previous Qualifying Exams

Students from the following schools have qualified to be contestants:

April 5, 2016 program

Bethel High School
Brookfield High School
Danbury High School
High School
Immaculate High School
Loomis Chaffee High School
New Milford
High School
Newtown High School
Nonnewaug High School
Pawling High School
Pomperaug High School
Sheppaug Valley
High School
High School

Good luck to all!

Here are some basic rules/procedures of the game Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.


We will play two games of Who Wants to Be a Mathematician with seven contestants in each game. All questions are multiple choice and are projected on a big screen. Contestants signal in with remote control devices. Their answers are recorded on computer, but are not revealed. Any or all contestants can get the question right and receive points for the question—it does not matter who answers first. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers (thus, there is no penalty for guessing). Each question has a time limit, which is also displayed on the screen. The timer counts down from this time limit to zero. CONTESTANTS MUST SIGNAL IN BEFORE THE TIME COUNTER GETS TO ZERO, OTHERWISE THEIR ANSWERS WILL NOT BE RECORDED. (We advise contestants to signal in before the timer gets to five seconds, just to be sure that their answers are accepted.)

A display onscreen indicates that a contestant's response has been recorded (but not what that selection is). Contestants can change their response and signal in their choice with the remote at any time before time is up. (The screen also indicates that a change in response has been made.)

We test the signaling devices the day of the game, but if a contestant's signaling device is not working, he or she should hit his or her buzzer to let the emcee (Mike) and judge (Bill Butterworth) know that the device is not working. Bill will stop the clock and we will either fix the signaling device or replace it.

If a question is unclear, or if a contestant has a question, he or she should feel free to ask Mike for clarification. Bill will stop the clock and Mike will do his best to answer the question.


This is similar to "Phone a Friend" in the TV game Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Each contestant must have a contestant helper with him or her at the game. The helper must be either a teacher from the school or a high school student (from any school). The

helper can help the contestant on one question per game and may not use a calculator or book, or talk to anyone else during that question.

Once the question is on the screen, contestants elect to get Help by using their buzzer. At most one contestant can use the Help on a given question. Should more than one contestant want to use the Help on a question, the contestant who hits his or her buzzer first will be the one allowed to use the Help on that question.

To make sure that the question timer does not run out, a contestant should hit his or her Help buzzer with no less than five seconds left on a question. We also advise contestants using the Help to signal in an answer themselves, before using the Help, just in case a helper violates the rules (in which case the Help is forfeited and the contestant cannot enter or change an answer).

Once the timer gets to about five seconds left on the question, before the contestant actually uses the Help, Bill will stop the clock and Mike will ask the contestants who are not using the Help to put their remotes down, so that they do not signal in and change their answers (and thus be affected by the Help discussion). This is when the contestant will use his or her Help.

During the Help, a contestant and helper have 30 seconds to discuss the question. Bill will ring a bell at 20 seconds to let the contestant and helper know that they have 10 more seconds. When time is up (for the Help), Bill will ring the bell several times. Then the contestant will signal in his or her final answer, and we will resume the timer countdown.

The Help can be used only during the game on questions 1-8. It cannot be used in Tie-breakers, the Square-Off Round, or the Bonus Round.


If there is a tie for first, we will break the tie with a tie-breaking question. The first person to answer a tie-breaking question correctly wins the game (and the first-place money and prize) and advances to the Square-Off Round. (So for tie-breaking questions, being correct first does matter.) Tie-breakers are similar to the Square-Off Round (below).

If there is a tie for a place other than first, then the tied contestants can talk it over and see if one prefers one prize and another prefers a different prize (e.g., if two are tied for second, one might want the second-place prize and one the third-place prize). If that is the case, then the tie is resolved. If they both prefer the same prize, then we will have a tie-breaking question after the Bonus Round for those tied contestants.

Square-Off Round:

The winners of each game win $500 and a TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator, and will play against each other on one question, the Square-Off question. The first person to answer the Square-Off question correctly wins the Square-Off Round, an additional $500, and advances to the Bonus Round (see below). (So for this question, being correct first does matter.)

Mike will read the question. Once the question and choices are revealed on the screen, the contestants can signal in by hitting their buzzer. That is, they do not have to wait for Mike to read everything on the screen. Once a contestant hits his or her buzzer, Mike will ask that contestant for his or her answer. The contestant must answer immediately with the letter of his or her choice. If the contestant is correct, he or she wins an additional $500 and advances to the Bonus Round. If incorrect or if the contestant does not answer immediately, the question is then available to the other contestant. He or she must answer within one minute. If his or her answer is correct, then he or she advances to the Bonus Round. If incorrect, then the question is opened up to both contestants again and we proceed as above (except with two choices eliminated). We will have an odd number of choices. We will continue like that until either the question is answered correctly or there are two or fewer choices left. If no one gets the question correct before then, then we will go to another Square-Off question. Contestants may not use the Help in the Square-Off Round.

Bonus Round:

The contestant who wins the Square-Off Round gets the chance to answer a multiple choice bonus question worth $2000 (and so can win a total of $3000). The contestant may not use the Help during the Bonus Round. He or she signals in with the remote, as in the regular game (that is, not with the buzzers used in the Square-Off Round or in any tie-breakers).


The TI-Nspire graphing calculators are awarded the day of the game. The other prizes (Maplesoft software, a calculus book from John Wiley and Sons, books from the AMS, and from WCSU) and any cash won (in the Bonus and Square-Off Rounds) are mailed to the contestants after the game by the appropriate sponsor. Prizes and cash from the AMS usually take about two weeks to get to the winners. The other prizes usually arrive about a month after the game.

The most important thing: Have fun!

 History of the game:

 The game began in 2001 and has been held at universities and science centers from Boston to Hawaii. In the contest’s history, nearly 600 students nationwide have won over $400,000 in cash and prizes and have been cheered on by nearly 30,000 classmates. This is the first time the contest is held in Connecticut and here at WCSU.

To help your high school students prepare, AMS has made available:

I) Past qualifying tests and answers for the national game -- Please note that qualifying tests for regional games, like the one we will host at WCSU, are the same level of difficulty as the Round One tests from 2014 on.

II) Past questions of one national and one regional actual games. -- The answers to the one regional game are also included.

You can obtain (I) and (II) above from the AMS website http://www.ams.org/programs/students/wwtbam/wwtbam (one by one) or all documents together here.

You may also see questions from previous contests on AMS’s video pages http://www.ams.org/programs/students/wwtbam/wwtbam-video and http://www.ams.org/programs/students/wwtbam/wwtbam-video-pre2014 as well as highlights of past performances http://www.ams.org/programs/students/wwtbam/archive-index and http://www.ams.org/programs/students/wwtbam/index-2001-2005 .

Disclaimer from AMS's website: "Keep in mind that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is an established television show, which means the name and game are trademarks and copyrighted. The adaptation that the AMS presents, Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, has been developed as a non-profit outreach program for talented high school students. Teachers and others may use the sample questions and format for their own teaching purposes only and may not distribute or profit from this game in any way."



Modified 01 April, 2016 , DRB